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There are always those days that come along and feel like they make everything a bit harder. Sometimes it's anniversaries of things that happen, and other times it's random days when everyone is expected to be happy. Like Valentines' Day. When we're all supposed to feel romantic.
And sometimes it's the little things - like a ridiculous day in the calendar - the that can push us over the edge, and take us from 'just about coping' to 'not coping'.
So we're here to help.
If you love Valentines' Day - woop! Go out and enjoy it! If you're not so sure, here are some tips for getting through.
1. Remember, loads of people are trying to do romantic things and are actually having a rubbish time.
It might look like everyone is all loved up, but often people are paying crazy money (because everything costs more on Valentines' Day) and having a not great time.
2. The whole Valentines' cards thing can make things awkward.
When I was 14 I sent a guy a Valentine and it was all he talked about for ages, bragging to all his friends. Until he found out who it was from. And then he never said another word about it.
When I was older I sent an anonymous Valentine to a friend because I thought it would make her happy. But then when she found it wasn't actually from the person she fancied, but from me, she was actually angry.
(From this I have learned: I should never send Valentines' cards).
3. If you want to be faithful to the origins of Valentines' Day, the original St Valentine had no connection to romantic love, that came about 1000 years earlier. He was killed for being a Christian and actively trying to tell other people about Christianity in the time of the Roman Empire. I don't actually know how you'd commemorate that.
4. Celebrate love. In your own way.
Let's not be so boring and narrow to just leave it to the couples. Who do you love? Your family? Your hamster? Your best friend? Think of something that would make them smile and do that. You could even keep it a secret.
Or think of someone who might not get shown any love this Valentines' Day and do something that would make them happy. (Although remember no.2 and be careful).
We hope it's an unexpectedly good Valentines' Day for all of you.
What does brave look like to you?
At the risk of sounding like an idiot, finding my brave would look like walking towards a crowd of geese, or into a pen of chickens, or (and I'm shuddering just writing this) holding out bread for pigeons to come and eat. From my hand.
Have you seen Mary Poppins, and that scene with the Bird Lady? That song when she has pigeons crawling all over her just freaks me out beyond reason.
(Once I put together a mash up of that song, 'Feed the Birds' with a much darker one 'Poisoning Pigeons' which was one way of dealing with my fear of birds.)
There's a reason I'm so afraid of birds, but most people would never know that about me, or why it's hard to take my kids to feed the ducks.
Being brave looks different for everyone.
Sometimes keeping going, just getting up in the morning, is the brave thing. Turning up to school, or college, when it's a place you experience bullying or exclusion, or feel desperately alone or misunderstood - that takes huge courage.
Sometimes it's admitting that we're struggling. That we can't hold it together. Sometimes it's confiding in someone else. That can feel terrifying - the risks of being rejected, misunderstood, persecuted or ignored are always there. But maybe someone might be able to help, in a way we didn't realise they could.
Sometimes being brave is trying to delay self-harming, when we have come to depend on it. Or trying out an alternative even though though we don't think it'll work and we really don't want to.
For one person I know it's sitting with his feelings. For someone else it's talking to their mum. For another it's talking himself through his urges to harm until they go, and for another it's just trying to be kind and not criticise herself constantly.
Tiny steps. They might not look brave to anyone else, but they are. We promise. They're huge, and we have so much respect for you taking them.
And we somehow find the courage needed for that next step, because we believe (some of the time at least) that there might be something better ahead. That life won't always feel like this. That there are good things in the future and days of feeling good. So if we can get through today, that's a step forward (however small) and a step closer to things feeling different.
So don't let anyone else tell you what brave looks like. Only you know.
May you find the courage to take your next step.
On Sunday night Demi Lovato sang at the 62nd Grammy Awards to make her musical comeback following her overdose last year. It was a beautiful and emotional performance, and she chose a song that she had written just before the overdose, called Anyone.
Lovato has admitted to struggling with addictions, eating disorders and also with self-harm, saying how she has used all those things "to numb the pain". And the song itself is a cry for help and for relief, an expression of the pain that she has carried with her for many years:
Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone, oh
Anyone, please send me anyone
Oh, Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone
Oh, anyone, I need anyone
She was singing it to a room packed with thousands of people, and to millions of fans across the world, and yet the song is about feeling desperately alone.
And that, I think, is one of the things that makes life hardest. Whatever we have experienced and struggle with, however we feel and whatever is on our plate, it is harder when we have to do it alone. Having someone to trust, to share things with, someone who listens and is on our side, can make all the difference in the world.
A lot of the people who do Alumina say that one of the most helpful things about it is just feeling less alone. Even though they can't physically see each other, and they're only together in a virtual space, it still makes them feel like they're not the only ones feeling so bad, and needing some support.
Harming ourselves is often a very private thing we do, on our own, and something that we don't want others to know about. But it is also an attempt to cope with things that are really painful - an attempt to cope on our own. And that is so much harder than finding a way to ask for help.
It's hard, we get it. And you have your reasons. But we'd like to challenge some of them. These are the top 3 reasons people tell us don't ask for help.
1. Thinking "I should be able to cope"
For whatever reason a lot of us feel like we're supposed to manage everything on our own. We're supposed to be able to cope. It might be what our parents have made us feel, or our school. I was definitely brought up to think I shouldn't need anyone else, or ask for their help. I feel like there's something wrong with me if I can't just survive and cope.
IT'S A LIE.
We're supposed to need each other. It's human, it's normal. If we think we don't need help from anyone else we are just wrong, because everyone does.
2. You don't want to be a burden
It's easy to think we're doing everyone a favour by keeping our problems to ourselves. But we're actually wired to want to help each other. And it's really painful to see someone struggling, but not be able to help.
If your friends were struggling you would want to support them. In fact, if they didn't tell you what was going on you'd probably feel sad that they didn't trust you, or maybe you'd wonder if they even wanted to be friends with you. You wouldn't be thinking "I'm SO glad they're not burdening me with their problems."
Real friendship (or great family relationships) grows when we are able to support each other, and ask for the support we need.
3. Believing that no-one can help you
Sure, your friend or your mum might not know how to help you at first. They might feel a bit scared, or overwhelmed. But that's no reason not to give them a chance. You can tell them what you need, or what would help.
No-one is beyond help or hope. Asking for help might be a bumpy road, but it's definitely one worth travelling.
Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
How to not have a rubbish Valentines' Day
Valentines' Day can be nice, or it can just make us feel more lonely. So here are some tips on how to make it not rubbish.